From Peter Frampton to Richie Sambora, by way of Joe Perry, there are many great rock songs that make use of the talkbox. Although it’s mostly heard in music from the seventies and eighties, the talkbox does pop up in songs by bands like Rage Against The Machine and The Black Keys as well. Here we take a look at some of the best rock songs to feature the talkbox.
1. Bon Jovi - “Livin’ On A Prayer”
Richie Sambora’s main riff from Bon Jovi’s massive 1986 hit “Livin’ On A Prayer” might be the most well known example of talkbox use in rock music. The talkbox made the song stand out among all the other melodic rock songs that were produced around the same time, and probably helped give Bon Jovi the edge on their peers. Sambora has since made use of the talkbox on several Bon Jovi songs, most notably their 2000 comeback hit “It’s My Life.”
2. Aerosmith - “Sweet Emotion”
After Tom Hamilton kicks off Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” with that awesome bass riff, Joe Perry comes in on top of it playing his guitar through a talkbox while singing the words “sweet emotion.” Perry used a talkbox by Kustom Electronics nicknamed “The Bag” to record the song.
3. Motley Crüe - “Kickstart My Heart”
Released 1989 as the second single from the Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood album, “Kickstart My Heart” was sort of the culmination of everything the band did in the eighties. It’s the ultimate biker song, with Mick Mars’ motorcycle-sounding dive-bombs that start off the track. But “Kickstart My Heart” is also notable for its talkbox solo. The solo is just as fast as a Mick Mars solo should be, but the talkbox gives it that extra edge, making it stand out above the rest. Mars also use the talkbox at the very end of the song, when he talk/sings the words “kickstart my heart” while playing the talkbox.
4. Peter Frampton - “Do You Feel Like We Do”
Peter Frampton is often seen as the main proponent of the talkbox. Frampton discovered the talkbox when he was sitting in on the sessions for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Frampton got a talkbox from Bob Heil, who designed the first high-powered talkbox. After playing around with the new piece of equipment for a while, it would become synonymous with Frampton’s sound, especially on his 1976 live classic Frampton Comes Alive. The solo in “Do You Feel Like We Do” has it all - Frampton singing with the talkbox, as well as tasty licks that are so smooth they sort of have a liquid quality to them.
5. Guns N’ Roses - “Anything Goes”
There were so many hits to come off of Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite For Destruction that it is easy to forget that the album does have more to offer than rock classics such as “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City.” “Anything Goes” is special because it features lots of talkbox goodness from Mr. Saul Hudson, aka Slash. His talkbox playing is just as dirty as everything else that he plays. Slash basically doubles what is most likely Izzy Stradlin’s guitar work with the talkbox, and at some points he briefly play along with Axl Rose’s vocals. But the high point of the song is the solo where the two guitars trade licks back and forth.
6. Alice In Chains - “Man In The Box”
Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell proved that a talkbox could be used successfully in the band’s heavy, and introverted music. Cantrell uses a talkbox for the main riff of “Man In The Box” from their 1991 album Facelift.
7. Joe Walsh - “Rocky Mountain Way”
Just like Peter Frampton is a given on this list, so is Joe Walsh and his “Rocky Mountain Way.” Released in 1973, “Rocky Mountain Way” makes Joe Walsh one of the pioneers of the talkbox. The one minute long talkbox solo slowly builds from a steady groove to Walsh pulling out all the stops towards the end - a classic guitar solo in its own right, and even more so in terms of talkbox greatness.
8. Nazareth - “Hair of the Dog”
Nazareth singer Dan McCafferty used a talkbox for the band’s 1975 single “Hair of the Dog.” McCafferty’s talkbox sounds quite different from most songs on this list, because he use a very distorted tone. Guns n’ Roses covered the song on their 1993 album "The Spaghetti Incident?". Slash’s talkbox part is less distorted than McCafferty’s original, but even though he is playing someone else’s music, the sound is unmistakably Slash’s.
9. Foo Fighters - “Generator”
“Generator” is often lost among all the hits from Foo Fighters’ There Is Nothing Left to Lose album. Ever the innovator looking for new sounds, Dave Grohl decided to use a talkbox for parts of the song. It is most prevalent in the intro, but is also use after the chorus.
10. Metallica - “The House Jack Built”
If there is one thing Metallica proved with “The House Jack Built” it’s that the talkbox can be used successfully in a metal song as well. The song, which was included on the band’s 1996 album Load, features a heavy talkbox solo by Kirk Hammett. It is the only Metallica song so far to feature the talkbox.